This is an extremely exciting team. Everyone in the lineup can hit with power. The infield is pretty good and the outfield may develop into one of the best ever seen. There are swift runners all over the field, and strong arms are a dime a dozen. And, nicest of all, the Giants are so very, very young. Only Willie Mays and Daryl Spencer, of the regulars, are over 25. What more can be said about the incomparable Mays in center? He does everything, and all of it with a boyish enthusiasm that is a joy to watch. Last season he led the league in stolen bases and runs scored and was second in batting (.347) and total bases. The Giants have other young outfielders who can run throw and hit. Speedster Jackie Brandt (24) hit .298 three years ago as a rookie and then disappeared into the service. He's back at last and will be the regular left fielder. Twenty-three-year-old Felipe Alou, a sprinter from the Dominican Republic, is supposed to have an even better arm than Mays. When he's playing in right, the Giant outfield will be impenetrable. Waiting for either Brandt or Alou to falter are two fine left-handed power hitters, Willie Kirkland (25) and 24-year-old Leon Wagner (.317 in 74 games for the Giants last year). And on the bench is that venerable home run hitter, Hank Sauer, now a sprightly 40. Of the many fine Giant rookies last season, powerful Orlando Cepeda was the best—not only on the team but in the league as well. A good fielder at first base, he hits with emphatic power (25 homers, 96 RBIs, .312 batting average) and is only a baby—albeit a baby bull—at 21. Spencer tailed off in his hitting after midseason last year but still ended up with 17 home runs and 74 RBIs; he'll play second now that the graceful-fielding Andre Rodgers has taken over at short. Jim Davenport may or may not be a better hitter than his .256 average would indicate but it really doesn't matter on this team. He's a topflight-fielding third baseman. Rugged Bob Schmidt (25), who looks like a catcher, hits with pretty good power and is learning fast behind the plate.
That prized youth, which means a certain lack of experience. None of the regulars has played more than one season in the majors except Mays and Spencer. This hurt last year: too many mistakes were made, and much of that great speed was nullified by careless base running. Kirkland is not too good an outfielder, and Wagner can't field at all. Other than that, all the Giant weaknesses are concentrated in the pitching staff. Left-hander Johnny Antonelli, the golden-armed wonder of the 1954 World Champion Giants, is the only pitcher on the staff with a genuine winning big-league record. Newcomers Sam Jones and Jack Sanford could erase the pitching weak spot but, don't forget, they each lost 13 games last year. Twenty-year-old Mike McCormick has a blazing fast ball and should become a big winner someday. But he hasn't yet. Slow-ball pitcher Stu Miller is really remarkable, but the fact remains that despite his league-leading ERA he won only six while losing nine. And that is about it. The Giants must have a good relief pitcher, and they don't have one at the moment. Allan Worthington, the strong right-hander, was a dependable long-relief man last season, but now he has a bad knee. Billy Muffett was good in relief for the Cards in 1957 and no good at all in 1958. Curt Barclay recovered from the sore arm that stopped him last year; he could help if he's back in shape.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
Toothpick-chewing Sam Jones, of the wicked fast ball and mean hook, is the big man here. With the punchless Cards last year he had the second-best ERA in the league and only a 14-13 record to show for it. Twenty-nine-year-old Jack Sanford is a fast-ball pitcher, who two years ago was a late-blooming Rookie of the Year with the Phils. He had trouble most of 1958, but pitched very well the last month or so, and this spring his fast ball seemed as good as ever. Andre Rodgers, the 6-foot-3 shortstop from the Bahamas, is back after an abortive trial two seasons ago. Now, as batting champ of the Pacific Coast League, he has the confidence to go with his great range and powerful arm.
THE BIG IFS
It's all up to the pitching staff. Can Sanford and Muffett regain their 1957 form? If so, the Giants have a strong starter in Sanford and the answer to their relief woes in Muffett. Has McCormick matured enough physically to become a steady starter? And so on down the pitching line. If Rodgers is finally ready, there will be no second-base problem with Spencer there. If Andre isn't, Spencer has to move back to short, and second base will revert once again to .232 hitter Danny O'Connell.
Rarely has a team rebuilt so quickly and so well as the Giants of 1958. The only knock against them was the lack of pitching. Everything else was there. Now they have added Sanford and Jones, and Manager Bill Rigney is ecstatic. If these two can win, the Giants have a good chance to win the pennant.
PAST PERFORMANCE CHART
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