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San Francisco Giants

Team Page | Roster | Spring Training Schedule | Regular Season Schedule
On this page: Arrivals | Departures | Spring Cleaning | Team Breakdown | Prospects | Predictions

   National League MVP Jeff Kent hit .334 with 33 homers and 125 RBIs last season. AP

By Lonny Krasnow, CNNSI.com

The San Francisco Giants won 97 games last season, the most of any team in all of baseball. Yet the 2000 season ended on a somber note when the Giants lost the NL division series to the New York Mets in four tense games.

After the series, manager Dusty Baker was blasted for his strategic moves in three straight loses. Nonetheless, he was rewarded with a two-year contract that makes him the second-highest paid skipper behind the Yankees' Joe Torre.

The team returns mainly intact with a few notable exceptions. Gone are Ellis Burks, a clubhouse leader, and reliever Doug Henry, who left as free agents. The team signed Eric Davis and utility man Shawon Dunston and traded Bill Mueller to Cubs for reliever Tim Worrell.

Pitching depth will again be the team's primary strength. While no starter finished among the top ten in ERA, the Giants led the majors with 15 shutouts and posted a tidy 3.45 ERA after the All-Star break.

The starting rotation is solid with Livan Hernandez (17-11, 3.75 ERA), Shawn Estes (15-6, 4.26), Russ Ortiz (14-12, 5.01), Kirk Rueter (11-9, 3.96) and Mark Gardner (11-7, 5.21) expected to be the Fab Five.

 

Top Guns
Giants 2000 team leaders
Avg.  Jeff Kent  .334 
HR  Barry Bonds  35 
RBIs  Jeff Kent  125 
SB  Marvin Benard  22 
Wins  Livan Hernandez  17 
ERA  Livan Hernandez  3.75 
Ks  Russ Ortiz  167 
Saves  Robb Nen  41 
 
Go Figure

55-20

San Francisco's record at Pac Bell Park -- the best home mark in the majors -- despite an 0-6 start.

 

Closer Robb Nen, who has converted 28 consecutive save opportunities, anchors a bullpen that includes RHPs Felix Rodriguez, John Johnstone, Worrell and left-handers Alan Embree and Aaron Fultz.

Offensively, the Giants are led by the man, Barry Bonds, and reigning MVP Jeff Kent. As long as they are healthy and happy, the Giants are in good shape. The dynamic duo combined for 82 home runs, 231 RBI, 243 runs scored last season. Bonds, who will be 37 in July, is in the final year of his contract and will be looking to show that he has plenty left in the tank. Kent is as consistent as they come.

Replacing Ellis Burks' production in right field will be the biggest problem facing Baker. The three-headed monster of Armando Rios, Eric Davis and Shawon Dunston should match Burks' in terms of leadership, but not at the dish.

Third base is another concern. Russ Davis will get a chance to take over for Mueller, but his defensive deficiencies will provide a shot for rookie Pedro Feliz, who hit 33 homers in Class AAA last season.

Unhappy with the platoon of Doug Mirabelli and Bobby Estalella behind the plate, the Giants took a flyer on 15-year veteran Benito Santiago midway through camp. Mirabelli appears to be the odd man out.

To repeat in the competitive NL West, the Giants will have to improve their record against division rivals, especially with the return of the unbalanced schedule. Last year San Francisco went 26-24 against Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles and San Diego -- and four games under .500 over the past three seasons.

No team in the West has successfully defended its title since the Atlanta Braves in 1992 and '93. But if anyone can pull it off, it's Baker, Bonds, Kent and company.

Arrivals
Pos.  Player  From  Via 
RHP  Jamie Arnold  Cubs  Free Agency 
OF  Eric Davis  Cardinals  Free Agency 
OF  Shawon Dunston  Cardinals  Free Agency 
RHP  Tim Worrell  Cubs  Trade 

Departures
Pos.  Player  To  Via 
OF  Ellis Burks  Indians  Free Agency 
RHP  Doug Henry  Royals  Free Agency 
3B  Bill Mueller  Cubs  Trade 
Scott Servais  Tigers  Free Agency  

Spring Cleaning
 
Armando Rios
  • Who will replace Ellis Burks? The Giants were 73-37 when he started and 24-28 when he didn't. Rios is supposed to take Burks' spot in right field, but J.T. Snow is the likely candidate to move into Burks' spot in the batting order. Rios provided some big hits in a limited role last season, but is he miscast as an everyday player?

  • Russ Davis is expected to take over at third base, but the organization has its fingers crossed that rookie Pedro Feliz will overwhelm the competition during the spring to earn the job. Feliz is superior to Davis defensively and is coming off a breakout season in the minors.

  • Although he scored a career-high 102 runs last season, Marvin Benard's season was a disappointment. His .342 on-base percentage was below his career average, and with the steady Mueller gone, it's important for Benard to set the table at the top of the lineup.

  • Bonds is in the final year of his contract and has began expressing his disappointment about not being approached about an extension. With his status up in the air, you have to wonder if it will affect him on the field.
  • Team Breakdown
    Projected Lineup  Projected Rotation 
    CF  Marvin Benard  RHP  Livan Hernandez 
    SS  Rich Aurilia  LHP  Kirk Rueter 
    LF  Barry Bonds  RHP  Russ Ortiz 
    2B  Jeff Kent  LHP  Shawn Estes 
    1B  J.T. Snow  RHP  Mark Gardner 
    RF  Armando Rios  Bullpen  
    Benito Santiago  RHP  Robb Nen (closer) 
    3B  Russ Davis  LHP  Felix Rodriguez 
    Key Reserves   RHP  Tim Worrell 
    OF  Shawon Dunston  LHP  Alan Embree 
    OF  Eric Davis  LHP  Aaron Fultz 
    Bobby Estalella  RHP  John Johnstone 
    INF  Ramon Martinez  RHP  Joe Nathan 

    Prospects to Watch
  • RHP Kurt Ainsworth -- Three years removed from "Tommy John" surgery, Ainsworth could arrive in San Francisco this summer. The former first round selection limited Double-A hitters to a .234 mark last year. He also went 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in the Olympics.

  • 3B Pedro Feliz -- The Giants dealt third baseman Bill Mueller away, entrusting the future to Feliz (.298, 33, 105 in Class AAA last season). He will compete for at-bats with Russ Davis this season, but could win the position outright.

  • 3B Tony Torcato -- The Giants' No. 1 pick in '98 is a pure-hitting lefty (37 doubles in in 490 at-bats in 2000) with a higher ceiling than Feliz. He is expected to play a full season at Class AA-Shreveport this season.

  • RHP Jerome Williams -- The 19-year-old fireballer ranks among the best prospects in baseball -- not just in the Giants system. Williams has has overmatched older competition in the low minors and has the makings of a No. 1 starter.
  • Best-Case Scenario
    Baker pushes all the right buttons and gets the most out of his players while the starting rotation wins more than 70 games again, thanks in part to Joe Nathan, who quietly emerges after the All-Star break.

    Rios shows no ill-effects from offseason "Tommy John" surgery and fits the bill in right field. Kent has another MVP-type season and Bonds gets a McGwire-like two-year, $30 million extension.

    The Giants repeat in the West and avenge their playoff loss to the Mets in the division series. In the NLCS, the G-Men prove their staff is the best in the league by eliminating the Braves in six games. Barry Bonds silences his critics once and for all in the World Series, carrying San Francisco to the promised land with five home runs, including a game-winning splash-down in Game 7.

    Worst-Case Scenario
    The Giants' abrupt dismissal in the playoffs carries over into 2001. Bonds slumps early and his contact squabbling reaches epic proportions.

    Mueller's league-leading .974 fielding percentage is sorely missed as Russ Davis commits more errors than homers. Rios' elbow acts up again and the Giants get weak production from the Dunston-Davis platoon.

    Nen continues his Jekyll & Hyde act, alternating dominant seasons with inconsistent seasons.

    The imbalanced schedule hurts the Giants, who fail to post a .500 record in 76 divisional contests. A 85-win season and third-place finish leaves the Pac Bell faithful unsatisfied.

    Bottom Line
    San Francisco's pitching was good enough to win the NL West in 2000, and the Giants are banking on it being good enough to allow them to repeat as division champions in 2001.

    By virtue of a stunning playoff ouster by the Mets, the Giants were left with some unfinished business. And the pitching-rich NL West will make it an even greater challenge.




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