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2 San Francisco Giants Signs of change for the better still may not get last year's runner-up back to the top

March 25, 2002
March 25, 2002

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March 25, 2002

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2 San Francisco Giants Signs of change for the better still may not get last year's runner-up back to the top

At his first press conference as a member of the Giants, in
February, Japanese centerfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo was asked what
he liked best about the U.S. "Krispy Kremes," he replied.

This is an article from the March 25, 2002 issue Original Layout

Rolling his eyes, general manager Brian Sabean said, "Keep him
away from one of our pitchers."

The G.M. was referring to righthander Livan Hernandez, whose
5.24 ERA last season wasn't the only thing about him that was
inflated. Hernandez's midsection looked as though he had made
too many visits to the doughnut shop, enough to make his listed
weight of 240 seem at least 20 pounds less than it really was.
While his girth wasn't the only reason that Hernandez slumped
from 17-11 (with a 3.75 ERA) in 2000 to 13-15 last season, it
was enough of an issue that he spent much of the off-season
trimming the fat with the help of a personal trainer and
Spinning classes. He reported to spring training about 20 pounds
lighter but has thus far been hit hard.

San Francisco hopes that Hernandez can return to being the
workhorse, big-game pitcher that he used to be. Russ Ortiz has
surpassed him as the Giants' de facto ace, but Hernandez, the
MVP of the 1997 World Series with the Marlins, has pitched--and
won--crucial games far more often than any other starter on the
team. If the Giants are to overtake the Diamondbacks, who edged
them by two games for the NL West title last year, they'll need
another huge year from leftfielder Barry Bonds plus consistency
and clutch performances from Hernandez.

One encouraging sign for San Francisco is that Hernandez still
has the attitude of an ace. Asked about the possibility of being
the Opening Day starter at Dodger Stadium on April 2 and the
accompanying pressure of that assignment, he said, "I pitched in
front of 70,000 people in '97 [Game 1 of the World Series]. You
think 45,000 people will bother me? Nothing bothers me."

That's not exactly true. Another reason for Hernandez's drop-off
was his concern for his father, Arnaldo, who was gravely ill in
his native Cuba with lung and stomach cancer. Arnaldo died in
October, and Livan, who defected in 1995, opted not to return to
his homeland for the funeral, fearing retribution by the Cuban
government. Hernandez had declared the subject of his father's
health off-limits to the media early last season, which meant
that many fans who booed the pitcher knew nothing of his worries.

It's unlikely that Shinjo, the stylish, effusive outfielder
acquired in December from the Mets for lefthander Shawn Estes,
will hear any boos at Pac Bell Park. He is already a popular
figure, particularly among the Bay Area's Asian-American
population, although the impact he will have on the field has
been overly hyped. Shinjo, a 10-year veteran of the Hanshin
Tigers of the Japan Central League before arriving in New York
last year, hit .268 and proved to be a talented defensive
outfielder as a 29-year-old rookie, but his numbers--25 walks,
four stolen bases and a .320 on-base percentage in 400 at
bats--suggest that he's being miscast as a leadoff hitter. "What
choice do I have?" asks manager Dusty Baker, whose leadoff men
had a combined .315 OBP last year.

With Baker and Sabean in the last year of their contracts, a
failure to reach the postseason could lead to a shakeup at the
top. The Giants have been to the playoffs twice in Baker's nine
seasons but haven't won a postseason series since 1989. "I'd say
we feel some urgency," says Sabean. "We keep coming close, but
at some point you've got to cash in." --P.T.

COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO The popular Shinjo provides flash on and off the field, but his stats with the Mets last year don't add up to his being an effective leadoff man.COLOR PHOTO: TOM HAUCK/GETTY IMAGES SCHMIDT

IN FACT
Dusty Baker needs 79 victories to move into second place alltime
among Giants managers. He trails John McGraw (2,604) and Bill
Terry (823).

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Giants

"Righthander Russ Ortiz is their best starter. His fastball is
like a cutter that goes 94 mph. It's nasty, and it eats up
righthanders.... Jason Schmidt has 20-win stuff, which leads to
the question, Why doesn't he win 20 games? He's got a power
breaking ball and a 94-to-96-mph fastball with sink. But it
seems like he's content to go 15-14.... Livan Hernandez's
velocity is down, so he relies more than ever on feel and
location.... Robb Nen is still a nasty closer, but he struggled
last year. A lot of the stuff he threw went right down the
middle. He and Kevin Brown throw a 90-plus-mph slider, which is
unhittable.... Benito Santiago's bat was so tired by the end of
last year, he was painful to watch. He used to have a great arm,
but now it's only average, and it infuriates the team when he
tries throwing from his knees.... I like J.T. Snow's defense,
but this is a team that needs pop from a corner infielder, and
Snow doesn't supply it.... Jeff Kent has very little range at
second, but, man, the guy can still hit. He sits back real well
on curveballs, and it's hard to sneak heat past him.... Reggie
Sanders can hit anywhere in the order. If he gets hurt, this
team's in for tough times.... Don't pitch to Barry Bonds. When
he was in that zone last year, it was just a sight to behold.
Fastball, curveball, changeup, it didn't matter. He's not a
great leftfielder anymore--you can run on his arm--but he's good
enough.... Dusty Baker is as good as you get. He finds ways to
win, and he mixes his players very well."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2001 statistics

PLAYER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
BATTING ORDER

CF Tsuyoshi Shinjo[1] R 171 .268 10 56 4
SS Rich Aurilia R 45 .324 37 97 1
LF Barry Bonds L 2 .328 73 137 13
2B Jeff Kent R 78 .298 22 106 7
RF Reggie Sanders[1] R 71 .263 33 90 14
1B J.T. Snow L 198 .246 8 34 0
C Benito Santiago R 210 .262 6 45 5
3B David Bell[1] R 185 .260 15 64 2

BENCH

OF Shawon Dunston R 254 .280 9 25 3
OF Marvin Benard L 261 .265 15 44 10
IF Ramon Martinez R 309 .253 5 37 1

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA
STARTERS

RH Russ Ortiz 37 17 9 6.6 1.27 3.29
RH Jason Schmidt 90 13 7 6.0 1.32 4.07
RH Livan Hernandez 182 13 15 6.7 1.55 5.24
LH Kirk Rueter 156 14 12 5.7 1.43 4.42
RH Kurt Ainsworth (R)* 209 10 9 5.7 1.30 5.07

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA
BULLPEN

RH Robb Nen 30 4 5 45 1.03 3.01
RH Felix Rodriguez 88 9 1 0 1.00 1.68
LH Jason Christiansen 238 2 1 3 1.21 3.22

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie B-T: Bats-throws IPS: Innings
pitched per start

WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched PVR: Player
Value Ranking (explanation on page 154)
*Triple A stats

Manager
Dusty Baker
10th season with San Francisco

2001 record
90-72
second in NL West

IN THE FIELD
with defensive ratings

Golden Glover

Shinjo
Snow
Santiago

Good Leather

Bonds
Sanders
Kent
Aurilia
Bell
Ortiz

Iron Hands