Conversations with the Enemy: San Francisco Giants


We continue our conversations with the teams of the National League West while we all look forward to Spring Training. This time I had the opportunity to talk with Bryan Rosa of Around the Foghorn. It is always interesting to hear the viewpoint of our western competitors and especially from our rivals to the north.

Bryan – Around the Foghorn

Last season, seemingly out of the playoff race, a late season run pushed the Dodgers over the .500 mark. Was it just a fluky stretch? Or are the Dodgers contenders in the NL West this year? What are you expecting out of their 2012 season?

Stacie – Lasorda’s Lair

I don’t think the Dodgers’ second half was necessarily a fluke but rather a combination of a few key changes which came together to help them conquer that .500 mark. The first thing that happened which affected the team positively was when they cut the players who weren’t contributing. Lance Cormier, Marcus Thames, Dioner Navarro were a few of the names which were wasting roster spots and needed to be eliminated. Another pivotal change was the fact that James Loney began to hit. His remarkable turnaround from being discussed as a possible non-tender candidate to his astonishing performance in the second half was exciting to watch. His phoenix from the ashes reboot gave the Dodgers some precious runs. The third change was the bullpen’s effectiveness. In the first half of the season, the Dodgers’ pen was ranked as one of the worst in the Majors. I do think the Dodgers can be contenders this year as long as Loney, Uribe, and Ethier are productive. I expect them to be contenders in the NL West this year, and hopefully secure a spot in the playoffs.

Bryan – Around the Foghorn

The Dodgers added a bunch of parts and lost a bunch of parts this offseason, though, none of them either way really would be considered “big name” – what additions did you like the most/will make the biggest impact? As for the losses, which hurts the most?

Stacie – Lasorda’s Lair

Ned Colletti was busy signing quite a large amount of aging veterans, and we still weren’t able to pick up that much needed bat he had been long talking of. Certainly losing Hiroki Kuroda will hurt the most as far as losses, and it was sad to see him sign with the Yankees. This means Chad Billingsley will have to step up, and Aaron Harang will have to pitch well to make up for Kuroda’s departure. As far as additions, I like the recent Todd Coffey signing. I think he will be a great addition to the mostly young Dodger bullpen.

Bryan – Around the Foghorn

Going into the Spring, what area do the Dodgers need the most work on to get atop the NL West? What’s their biggest strength?

Stacie – Lasorda’s Lair

The Dodgers’ biggest strength has historically been their pitching. Even with the loss of Kuroda, I think the Dodgers will have a pretty solid rotation. They will also have Rubby De La Rosa back from Tommy John Surgery sometime in the late summer, and they also have some potentially sharp pitching prospects in the wings like Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Withrow, and Allen Webster. The bullpen looks to be in better shape than last season as well, yet it is heavy with right-handed pitching. The biggest thing the Dodgers need to work on to have a chance to compete with Arizona and the other NL West contenders is of course offense. They will need to score more runs in order to make a run for the division title.

Bryan – Around the Foghorn

It appeared, at least to those outside of LA, that the Dodgers were sitting in the driver seat when it came to Prince Fielder. Then Victor Martinez‘s ACL went yo-yo, the Tigers panicked and tossed a third world country at Prince. Do you think the Dodgers would have been able to snag Prince if not for the Tigers late interest?

Stacie – Lasorda’s Lair

I really never thought the Dodgers were actually going to sign Prince Fielder. They had already reached a contract agreement with James Loney, and they would have had to attempt to trade him if they had picked up Fielder. I would have absolutely loved to see the deal come to fruition, but it would have meant a back-loaded type contract that would have been the responsibility of the new owner. I’m actually a bit annoyed that Colletti was busy with his attempts to sign Fielder, and instead of making Kuroda an offer he chose to collect a bunch of “no name” players instead. I’d rather have seen him resign Kuroda and go with some of the younger players we have like Jerry Sands and Nathan Eovaldi. But nevertheless the idea of a Matt Kemp/Prince Fielder combo is downright mouth-watering.

Bryan – Around the Foghorn

What Dodger(s) do you expect to have a breakout campaign in 2012? What Dodger(s) do you expect regression from?

Stacie – Lasorda’s Lair

Andre Ethier should have a breakout season compared to last year when he was playing with an injured knee. He has the biggest chance to make an impact on the 2012 Dodgers, and he also has something to prove since he will be a free agent in 2013. Kenley Jansen is another player to watch for this season as well. He was utterly dominating during the second half, and he has the potential to be one of the best relievers in the NL. Matt Kemp had a monster season, but it shouldn’t be concerning if he regresses a bit this year. I feel he’ll build on what he has already accomplished, but I’d be completely happy with another 39 homerun and .324/.399/.586 season.

Stacie – Lasorda’s Lair

Juan Uribe was awful last year with the Dodgers. After the Dodgers first signed him it seemed like Giants fans were somewhat bitter. Do you think that Uribe will turn things around this year? Is he still regarded highly in SF after being a part of the championship team?

Bryan – Around the Foghorn

I think Juan will always hold a special place in the heart of Giant fans, obviously. But, this is still Juan Uribe we’re talking about. Juan’s 2010 was by far the best year of his career statistically, and only 2004 even comes close to replicating it. Outside of those years, he’s really a .250 type hitter with 18-22 type HR pop – certainly not bad, especially for an infielder but 2010 (and 2004) were very much exceptions to his typical years. That said, assuming he’s healthy, his ability to play a few positions on the infield along with some pop will be a welcome addition to the Dodgers, in my opinion. As long as one isn’t expecting a .275-.285 average, I think they’ll be happy with his production.

Stacie – Lasorda’s Lair

We had the opportunity to watch Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw pitch head-to-head four times last season, and since both pitchers have signed contract extensions I’m sure we will have many more of these battles. In your opinion, who is the better pitcher? How do you see the Giants’ rotation

Bryan – Around the Foghorn

Wow, what a tough question to answer. Obviously, both Tim and Clayton are incredible talents. I think Tim has emerged from the “thrower” he once was, and is now more of a “pitcher”, if you will. Clayton, still at such a young age, continues to improve every season and his numbers would make you blush on a video game. At four years his senior, Tim’s had the ability to “learn” how to pitch more, which should scare the pants off of NL foes considering Kershaw is doing what he’s doing at such a young age. As to who’s better? I’m not sure I could honestly make a great argument either way – they’re both amazing players. As to the Giants rotation, throwing my bias aside (or at least trying to), I do think the Giants staff is the best in the West, top to bottom – pen included. I know the D’Backs do have a solid rotation and Kevin Towers builds bullpens like kids build with Lego’s, but assuming they’re healthy, a rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner and Vogelsong is tough to beat, especially with a top five pen. Of course, it will be difficult for Vogelsong to repeat his 2011, but I don’t think the fallback will be as much as some are anticipating. He really did learn how to pitch during his time in Japan and I think with a (nearly) full season under his belt and a guaranteed spot, he’ll be a bit more comfortable. I also expect huge things out of Madison Bumgarner, who the sky is the limit for. Name wise, he won’t be the ace of the Giants’ staff but results wise? He’ll be right there with Lincecum and Cain, maybe even better. The Dodgers still have solid starting pitching (I do like the addition of Harang) and a nasty backhalf to the pen, so, as seems to be the case – pitching will continue to dominate the NL West.

Stacie – Lasorda’s Lair

Like the Dodgers, the Giants have strong pitching but their weakness is offense. Do you think they can improve in that area this season?

Bryan – Around the Foghorn

I think both the Dodgers and Giants will have improved offenses this year. For both squads, just getting healthy again will be a vast improvement. Do I expect either to be confused with an offensive juggernaut? Obviously, not, but I do think both getting some key players back healthy along with some solid offensive improvements, they’ll both have upgraded O’s for ’12. For the Giants, as we all saw in 2010, they thrived with talent atop the lineup – so I’m wishfully hoping Angel Pagan will be the Andres Torres we all loved in 2010. Even on Pagan’s worst day, he was better (offensively) than Torres on his best. Add in his speed, and I think the Giants made a pretty solid move in that particular acquisition. Melky Cabrera is a fine addition too – though, I’m not as excited about Melky as I am Pagan.

Stacie – Lasorda’s Lair

What was the Giants best offseason move this winter? Ryan Theriot was pretty useless for the Dodgers, but he did win a ring with the Cardinals last season. Do you think he will be a productive addition to the Giants?

Bryan – Around the Foghorn

I’m going to go with the addition of Pagan. As I said above, the Giants really hit their stride with some production atop the lineup. Last year, it was downright awful. I think a lot of people look at the Giants lineup, see a lack of power, and just assume that’s what they need – and while I’d certainly love some (along with the rest of the black and orange faithful), for a team that’s involved in so many close, low scoring games – speed, especially in front of your Pablo Sandoval‘s and Buster Posey‘s is so important. The Giants went something like 55-9 (.859%) when they scored 4 runs or more last year, and had an almost equally insane stat when they scored 3+, so as long as they can manufacture some runs with their speed – I think it’ll be a huge addition. Of course, along with Pagan, some health will be nice. An in-shape Huff, healthy Posey and healthy Sandoval should give the Giants some decent pop (20-ish) so I think they can get by there, but speed is something they really need. As for Theriot, I really didn’t mind it as a backup move, but, I’m pretty sure given Bochy’s history that he’ll be platooning with Brandon Crawford shortly – which I’m not so wild about. I don’t really mind platooning Crawford in the right scenario, but, I question if that’s Theriot. Either way, I wasn’t opposed to it – thought it was a solid bench move, but, if he ends up getting the majority of time at short? I’ll be pretty irritated I think.

Stacie – Lasorda’s Lair

Where do you think the Giants will place in the NL West this year? Who is their biggest competition?

Bryan – Around the Foghorn

I think it’s going to be a crapshoot in the NL West this year. Every team improved – some maybe more than others right now (Colorado might struggle with their youthful staff), but the Padres, Dodgers, D’Backs and Giants all made some solid moves. I think a lot of it is going to come down to health. I don’t think the Padres, improved as they are, will be able to hang with the rest of the Giants, D’Backs or Dodgers after the All-Star break, but I do think they’re improved and will certainly have a say in who comes out of the NL West, but I think the most healthy of the D’Backs, Dodgers and Giants will be the ones coming out of the NL West. I think all three of those teams, assuming health stays in order, should be in the 85-92 win range. I think it’s going to be a fantastic race this year.

 

A big thank you goes out to Bryan for his exceptional questions and answers. We look forward to more collaborative posts throughout the season with Around the Foghorn. You can follow @aroundthefoghorn, @lasordaslair, and myself on Twitter.

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