Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Spring training questions -- are the Giants too old???

Henry Schulman of the SF Chron has a good column as spring training opens --


As team slogans go, “We have nowhere to go but up” is not exactly inspirational, but it’s largely true. The Giants are tired of hearing about 98 losses in 2017. As they open spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Tuesday, they understand what they need to do to bleach that awful number from everyone’s minds.
Other teams in the same boat might be thrilled to improve by 17 wins and finish at .500, but not the Giants. They want to reach the postseason for the fifth consecutive even year.
Can they?
1. Can an older team win?
The Giants are still looking for center-field help to complement newly signed Austin Jackson, but if Jackson is their Opening Day center fielder, their projected lineup will have seven position players who will be in their 30s in 2018.
Ten teams in the wild-card era have had at least seven over-30 players who registered 400 or more plate appearances. Five reached the postseason, and one, the 2001 Diamondbacks, won the World Series with nine over-30s getting to the plate that many times. So it can be done.
 To be fair, the Giants are not decrepit. Most position players will be 30-32, including newcomers Jackson, Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. Hunter Pence will be 34 but is expected to platoon. Still, older players have a harder time staying healthy, which means the Giants would be well-served to get a fair share of plate appearances from their farm system, particularly outfielders Steven Duggar and Austin Slater.

2. What can the Giants expect from Longoria and McCutchen?
Both unquestionably make the team better, but they come to San Francisco in some decline, Longoria offensively and McCutchen defensively — or so the numbers say.
On a team full of players with multiple World Series rings, the Giants do not need them to play like MVPs (which McCutchen was in 2013), but instead blend with Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Joe Panik and the other outfielders.
However, the Giants gave away a lot to get McCutchen and Longoria, hoping the two could hoist the worst offense in the majors from 2017 and get much better defensively in the outfield. Longoria and McCutchen do not need to be All-Star-caliber, but given the team’s lofty ambitions for 2018, that sure would help.

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