Pitching and defense win championships. You've all heard that old saw many times; probably most often during the playoffs and World Series games. But the San Francisco Giants of 2009 turned the old saw on its head and proved it wrong. They had one of the best pitching staffs and most efficient defenses in the National League last year and were never really close to contending for the postseason.
The problem, of course, was offense. The Giants were in the bottom third of the NL in virtually every major offensive category. They had little power and couldn't run at all, but their worst problem was a complete lack of patience at the plate. Giants' batters drew just 392 walks in 2009, a major contributor to their MLB-worst .309 on-base percentage (OBP). The offense has been revamped, mostly on the cheap. Is there anyone of use for fantasy purposes beyond
The Giants signed Huff as an upgrade at first base over
But take '08 out of the equation and what emerges is a player whose ground ball rate has been steadily rising each season, peaking at over 48 percent in '09. At the same time, his line drive rate has eroded away, impacting his power numbers. His isolated power (ISO), which has averaged .190 due to spikes in '03 (.244) and '08 (.247), decayed to .144 in 2009, his lowest level since '01. The bottom line is that Huff's production is only likely to decline further, which renders him useless in most mixed leagues, and a barely serviceable substitute in NL-only formats.
The addition of
Everyone knows about
You see, last season Affeldt posted a 1.73 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP, well below his previous best of 3.33 and 1.30 respectively. The main difference was a sudden spike in the percentage of ground balls that Affeldt was able to generate. All through his career he averaged from 45-50 percent groundball rates, until last year's spectacular 65 percent mark. The cause of this dramatic improvement appears to be the development of new movement on his fastball, which became suddenly much more effective last season.
So, the warning to take away here is that Affeldt must maintain that high groundball rate to duplicate last season's success. So far he's doing that, but it's too early to tell if last year was just an aberration. He's already notched two vulture wins and nabbed a save, and will be in line for more saves if