Will Carroll
Tuesday March 1st, 2011

Imagine if they'd been healthy. The Giants come into 2011 with new rings and new expectations. The odd thing is that they did it in a season where they weren't among the healthiest teams in baseball. Last time they made it to the World Series, Stan Conte was the Head Trainer, building a medical staff that would later include Dave Groeschner. After an abortive stop in Chicago that told us more about the Cubs than Groeschner, he took over for Conte when Conte went to the Dodgers. The data tells us that he's done very well, with the 2010 campaign -- hardly a failure -- being the first where the team fell out of the top ten in most stats, such as DL days, DL dollars, and more sophisticated measures of risk management. Part of it was that they had a couple long injuries. While Emmanuel Burriss wasn't key to their plans, Mark DeRosa was. DeRosa's loss was covered by the fortuitous signing of Pat Burrell, something no one could have expected. Key players like Edgar Renteria and Jeremy Affeldt spent time on the DL, but instead of handcuffing the team, it allowed Bruce Bochy to take a look at players that would end up as key parts of a playoff contender. Most important for '11 and beyond, the Giants rotation stayed healthy. With a 1-2 punch that even the Phillies couldn't match up with, the Giants will be solid as long as Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain stay healthy. The Giants' medical staff has guided them both past the injury nexus with their arms intact, but they can't let the guard down now with new young arms like Madison Bumgarner coming who could be even riskier. The Giants likely won't be as good or as lucky in 2011, but with a bit more health, it might not matter.

(HEAD TRAINER: Dave Groeschner; FIVE YEAR RANK: 6; 2010 RANK: 14)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
GREEN LIGHT
C Buster Posey
Part of this rating is that Posey was expected to play first base when these values were run, but now Bruce Bochy is saying no, he'd rather fully rest Posey in those 20 or so games he expects Posey to be out. This makes some sense, in that a Huff-Posey 1B/C combo is significantly more valuable than Posey-Whiteside. The problem is that if Posey wears down or worse, gets hurt, they'll miss his bat a lot more than his catching. Green is low based on "just catching" and at this level should be a high yellow.

S5 Barry Zito
Zito is known more for his contract than anything he's done as a Giant, but let's look at this a bit differently. Zito's getting the money that Lincecum should probably be making, but that's not how baseball's structure works. If you think about the number of innings that Zito's been able to absorb, making it so that the pen is rested and ready for Lincecum and the other young starters, he's worth something just for the insurance value. That's his role again this year -- taking the ball -- and it's much more valuable than most think.

CL Brian Wilson
He's not The Machine and he's not a machine. He's relatively safe in the closer role, but he's a high-effort guy and that's always a bit of a worry.

Also Green:
1B Aubrey Huff
SP Matt Cain
YELLOW LIGHT
CF Andres Torres
Pretty much every major league team has had a couple chances to get Torres for nothing, but at 33, Torres finally put it all together. Whether he can hold it there is another thing. His 500 ABs last year were a career high and he showed the muscular problems that have plagued him his whole career. He'll miss some time, but it's likely not to be too serious.

RF Cody Ross
If Mephistopheles (or the devil of your choosing) returns to claim the other side of Ross' deal that made him Hades-hot in last year's playoffs, it might be his health and not his soul that's traded. Ross' odd path to his position and age factor into a yellow, but he's actually been relatively healthy, making this yet another rating I'm not fond of for the Giants.

SP Tim Lincecum
Lincecum is one-of-a-kind, but he's not immune to the laws of physics or biomechanics. The one worry I have about him is the same as any young pitcher: workload. If you want to get a bit deeper into things, I've always wondered about that arch in his back. It's the one thing about his unique motion that doesn't seem integral and if he loses any core strength or just thickens up as so many of us do in our late 20s and 30s, it could be the first sign of trouble. Lincecum has twice had issues with the back since I first said that in '06 on MLB.com and it's not a big problem yet. Three years of 225-plus IP mean we shouldn't see much of a World Series "hangover" for Lincecum, especially since he seems to have found a renewed focus this offseason.

SP Jonathan Sanchez
Sanchez held onto his rotation spot all season and put up a career high in innings. He's still inconsistent and inefficient, which worries The System in terms of repeating things in '11.

KR Jeremy Affeldt
Figuring out who the key reliever is on the Giants is tough. It could as easily been Sergio Romo or Javier Lopez. They all play their roles, but Affeldt's ERA jump last season shows just how little margin all of them are working with. Call it BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) regression or bad luck, it could go back for Affeldt, putting him in the setup role if anyone falters.
RED LIGHT
2B Freddy Sanchez
Sanchez couldn't stay healthy again, forcing the Giants to dig through available options. It actually worked out for the best. Sanchez's defense was missed, but the myriad options hit as well as Sanchez, especially once the playoffs got starter. Sanchez will have to hope the offseason surgery holds up and that he can get off to a quick start or that platoon he saw will pop up again quickly.

SS Miguel Tejada
There's an easy joke about Brian Sabean and old guys, but this one's more that Tejada was about the only shortstop available. Comparing Tejada to Edgar Renteria's an interesting exercise at this stage. There's still a little pop there and despite this red -- aging shortstops aren't a healthy or large bunch, so the baseline is prohibitively high -- Tejada's been very healthy over the past three seasons.

3B Pablo Sandoval
The weight gain did him in ... or at least that's the easy answer. Sandoval reminds me a bit of Hector Villanueva, the Cubs portly catcher of the late '80s. In an interview with Harry Caray, Villanueva said that when he was hitting the ball, everyone called him strong. When he wasn't, he was fat. Sandoval's fat until he hits again. The System thinks the across the board numbers drops were a sign of an injury, but there's no evidence that's true. The red's as overblown as all the spring stories about his weight will be. He's not without risk, but he's not red-risky.

LF Mark DeRosa
OK, DeRosa is red-risky. At some point, bad luck becomes pattern and for DeRosa, there's pattern and he's 36. Assuming that he can come back from another season lost to a wrist injury, he's more likely to shift to a utility role, which could be very valuable on a team that should lose some time here and there from various positions.

SP Madison Bumgarner
Sources I trust and respect hate Bumgarner's mechanics. Of course, I hate relying on opinions like this, because there's always some internet guru that will say they predicted that this pitcher or that pitcher would explode. That said, these are guys who are above that sort of thing and who watch baseball pitchers for a living. Take Bumgarner's age and the expected innings increase into account as well and he's not just red, he's bright flashing red. I hope I'm wrong here because he's very talented.

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